The completion of the Information Media Panel Inquiry (IMPI) last week comes with a far reaching media reforms under the auspices of Jonathan Moyo the minister who changed the face of communication during his first stint as Information minister in 2000.
Moyo then steered through parliament the obnoxious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), the two Acts that defined media then and still shapes the broadcasting and print media to date.
AIPPA created Media Information Commission (MIC) which became and is still the guard in licensing of both print media houses and all journalists in the country. For the first time, media industry was regulated and licensing of journalists was now a statutory issue.
On the other hand, BSA prescribed the licensing of private broadcasters in the country.
However, the two Acts became known for the manner they restricted the media industry for a decade. Two established national papers were closed for failing to comply with AIPPA (Daily News and The Tribune) while no private radio or television station were registered for 12 years till 2012. Moyo then morphed into a media Czar had become the media Czar.
Moyo naturally became a resented figure, the man who was playing God with media and MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso earning himself the derided name – media hangman.
Despite going out of government unceremoniously in 2004 after a fallout with President Robert Mugabe in the run up to the 2005 parliamentary elections, Moyo neither lost his love to control the media nor his charm to win his critics. He was in the political cold for two parliamentary terms which he contested and won as an independent politician.
On his second coming to government in 2013, Moyo cut a new figure and personality. Where he was antagonistic and abrasive in the past he became inclusive and persuasive.
Moyo immediately after assuming office as Information minister hastened to set up IMPI after a whirlwind tour of all media houses with his peace pipe. He had finally reached out to the private media which he had tried ruthlessly to crush during his first appointment.
IMPI chaired by veteran journalist and founding Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota included editors from both state-controlled and private media. It had multiple objectives which among others were inquiring into operating environment of the media, media ethics, journalism training and fostering national values into media reportage.
Section 3 of the Constitution among other things recognizes the following contentious values – recognition of and respect for the liberation struggle and recognition of veterans of the liberation struggle.
The values are contentious in the sense of the partisan nature of liberation veterans who have become an appendage of Zanu PF and an anathema to freedoms of association and choice which they fought for.
These are the same veterans who in 1997 held the country to ransom demanding another one off gratuity valued at US$5 000 then and a US$200 monthly pension for life.
These are also the same veterans who became Zanu PF shock troopers during elections since 2000 earning the country a reputation of holding bloody and disputed elections. These veterans are a group of people who have acted with impunity and considered themselves above the law.
These same veterans are the same group of people who among other things told IMPI journalists should be hanged and papers banned for criticizing Mugabe. They also demanded that the state should the only licensed television broadcaster. Without doubt these are issues that found themselves into the report.
Nyarota in acknowledging the finalization of the report said, “SARDC finally submitted the draft IMPI report. It consists of 458 pages, comprising an executive summary, key inquiry findings and report’s conclusions and recommendations, as well as 208 pages of important and comprehensive submissions by key information and media stakeholders.”
On the report’s recommendations he said, “The report contains 36 pages of recommendations to accompany the nine chapters of thematic reports.”
One can conclude, whichever way Moyo decides to use the IMPI Report it redefine the media in Zimbabwe in a manner that we have not known since colonisation in 1890. He has attained his golden moment and the height of media control without resorting to his old confrontational tactics and brazen threats but by winning the hearts and mind of private media through engineered persuasion and manufactured consent.